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RITES OF PASSAGE FOR A MODEL RAILWAY - 24: Autocars, Autocoaches And Railmotors
Revolutionary Railcars and Railmotors from early days... The search for rail-borne economy
Autocars, autocoaches and railmotors, the subject matter under discussion here, are available in proprietary - ready-to-run form and as kit models for the advanced modeller. They can look the bees knees on your layout.
They were developed as solutions to the problem of time and money. With driving cabs at the brake ends of railway carriages, or at either end of a railmotor or autocar, they had no need of the run-around facilities made available at terminus stations in the early days of railways. Originally a locomotive had to detach at branch termini and run around its train, back up again onto its train at the other end and set off back to its starting point. This was costly to the railway company and resulted in delays for passengers - in later years driving them to use local buses. Bad enough when the station was close to a small town, worse when in many cases the station might be a mile or two away from a village.
The answer at first was a locomotive-carriage formation that had no need for the run-around because there was a driving cab in the last carriage. On the North Eastern Railway (NER) a solution was found on off-peak services of having a locomotive sandwiched between two brake 3rd coaches (see top image).that had been built with a driving cab at the outer end of the brake compartment. porthole windows were fitted for the driver. The locomotive used for these services was the Bogie Tank Passenger with an 0-4-4 wheel arrangement and well tank for its water supply underslung between the driving wheels.
The Great Western (GWR) had purpose-built autocoaches on branch line services, as other campanies had in time, where the driver would be with the fireman in the locomotive for the outward, and in the coach driving compartment for the return trip. The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) developed its own version with enlarged cab windows for the driver under the auspices of Chief Mechanical Engineer Nigel Gresley.
The London and North Western Railway (LNWR), the Midland Railway (MR) and one or two smaller companies in Wales had a different design idea: that of a shorter carriage with its own steam locomotive attached (also above).
A new development around the turn of the 20th Century was the autocar with its own motor, no engine. The NER under Wilson Worsdell - younger brother of Thomas William Worsdell - had another couple of ideas, tailored to needs. On Tyneside third rail electric traction enabled trains of several carriages in length with a driving-luggage trailer on either end to compete with the new tram (street car) services on either side of the river east of Newcastle. For country services in 1903 his assistant Locomotive Superintendent Vincent Raven introduced a different solution, the petrol-electric railcar or autocar. Two were built and served communities between York and Scarborough at off-peak times. One of these survived, used for many years as a temporary home at Keldholme near Kirkbymoorside (Pickering). A group of enthusiasts led by Stephen Middleton began a restoration project in 2003, later winning Heritage Lottery Funding for the work needed to 'bring in back to life', albeit with a diesel engine (a technological progression). Great strides have been made, as you will see if you click on the link below.
Halsgrove Publishing Limited: "RAILMOTOR"
Look up the diversity of railmotors and autocoaches included in this volume (above) in glorious colour with building details and data. A worthwhile and well researched work I invested in myself recently in relation to my membership of the 1903 NER Autocar Trust based on the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway near Skipton, headed by Stephen Middleton and a team of technologically well-versed engineers and restoration veterans. Most, if not all the projects covered have been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
1903 NER Petrol-electric Autocar Trust
- Home | 1903 Electric Autocar Trust
Home page - This is the website of The 1903 Electric Autocar Trust - a quarterly A5 magazine is available to chart progress on both the Autocar and its NER trailer
Modelling the beast...
Many options are available on the market, some you build yourself, some come ready-to-run (proprietary). Take a look at the pictures below for a taster. Go back in time to the 1890's or 1900's. There is a kit available for the 1903 Petrol Electric Autocar. One very smart model in 7mm scale (O Gauge) has been built from a kit by Medley Models of No.3170 by Robin Taylor of Keighley Model Railway Club' for their exhibition layout Runswick Bay (in reality the station for Runswick Bay was nearby Hinderwell, and no Autocar was recorded as shedded in the Whitby/Middlesbrough area for services). I have no contact details for Medley Models despite an exhaustive net search. Maybe someone will supply details?
There is a 4mm kit of the NER 1903 P/E Autocar produced by Worsley Models at Worsley Works @ £30, contact www.worsleyworks.co.uk,
Versions of other railcars are also available. One I had was of a Sentinel steam railcar produced by Nucast (no longer trading). Coming closer to the modern day there is a plethora of diesel multiple units. These were introduced in the 1950's, built by various companies such as Metro Cammell, Clayton and British Railways at Derby and Birmingham Carriage Works. They are available from Bachmann Branchline, Dapol and Hornby Railways. Dapol took over the Airfix label to produce the 'bubble', 4-wheel railcar used largely on isolated branches around the UK..
What's available to railway modellers?
Model Railways Direct
- Hornby, Bachmann, Peco, Dapol, Graham Farish and Heljan Train Sets - Model Railways Direct Ltd
Model railway bargains from most manufacturers. Motive power, rolling stock, control systems, scenics, track,, buildings etc
Developments in alternative propulsion...
Almost as soon as 'Rocket' completed its winning lap at the Rainhill Trials alternatives were being looked into to steam traction. Marc Brunel and his son investigated the possibilities of gas powered technology. In Ireland an atmospheric railway near Dublin was built with stationary steam engines at regular intervals to create and maintain the vacuum on a 1.75 mile long stretch of line in 1844. The line lasted a decade. However Isambard Brunel was sufficiently impressed to install the Samuda technology on his South Devon Railway in mid-September,1847. Due to stresses and material weaknesses the railway abandoned gas technology within twelve months and reverted to steam locomotive haulage.
Magnus Volk came up with electric traction on his seafront railway at Brighton on the south coast in 1883. Despite setbacks presented by the weather, his system was reinstated in the 20th Century and provided the impetus for applying electric traction on standard gauge railways in Britain.
Robert Francis Fairlie came up with the idea of linking two conventional steam locomotives back-to-back for use on narrow gauge railways, thus avoiding the need for turntables. He hosted a meeting other locomoti7 ve engineers from around the world and came away snowed under with orders. James Cross & Co of St Helens in Lancashire built the engines. However, these days the only countries still using this type of motive power are Mexico, New Zealand and Wales (on the Ffestiniog railway in Snowdonia).
The next train of thought would be 'why not cut out the need for locomotive hauled trains, why not build a carriage with an engine on the same frame?' William Bridges Adams became the father of the steam railmotor. His idea was to have a carriage and locomotive in one, decades ahead of its time. The first of its kind, 'Express' (nicknamed 'Liliputian' for its size),was a 12'-0" long vehicle with 40" diameter wheels and outside cylinders of 31.2" X 6" built at his Fairfield Works in Bow, London ran on the Eastern Counties Railway between Shoreditch in London and Cambridge. A speed of 47 mph was achieved. Over six months in 1848 it covered 5,500 route miles. He later brought out a broad gauge (7'-0") version named 'Fairfield' for the GWR before the 'Gauge Wars' standardised British railways on 4'-8.5".
Developments led eventually to the railmotors I introduced at the opening of this page in the early years of the 20th Century. Diagrams and copious illustrations can be seen in RAILMOTOR by Robin Jones. See the Amazon link.above.
If you're an experienced modeller/engineer, why not have a crack at scratchbuilding one of these pioneers? Have fun.
Further developments, 1920s to 1950s...
Armstrong Whitworth and Clayton railcars
The road ahead...
Next developments after the 1903 NER Autocar and contemporary solutions, in the 1920's the Sentinel and Clayton companies arrived at a similar solution, using a coach body with steam boiler within the same framework, as also on the GWR. This company came up with the conventional carriage shaped No.93 that took to the rails in 1908 at Southall in Middlesex. Sentinel and Clayton railcars, like the NER's 1903 Petrol-electric vehicle were able to draw trailer vehicles or branch goods wagons. The Port Talbot Railway built a one-off steam railmotor that had a conventional bogie at the 'dummy' end and a power bogie at the other under what looked effectively like a separate, shorter vehicle on a linked frame.
The next logical development came in the 1940's with a GWR railmotor powered by a diesel engine, the apparent precursor.to the diesel multiple units (dmu's) mentioned above, built at various locations around England by several companies in the 1950's to accommodate British Railways' need for economy in service. However these measures proved too little, too late to save many branch lines doomed by Dr Richard Beeching's report in the early 1960's. There had been closures already in the mid-1950's on branch lines around the UK, which might have benefited from the new dmu's technology.
In the south, from Victoria, Waterloo, London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations electric multiple units (emu's) came increasingly into use on boat trains to Dover, Folkestone and Southampton, and suburban services around Kent, Surrey, Sussex and eastern Hampshire. Early designs resembled Dreadnought battle ships, available from Hornby in OO Gauge, as well as later developments from Bachmann (see current catalogues). Power was, as on the London Underground, by third rail - like the Tyneside Electrics around half a century earlier. Later emu's looked very much like the earlier GWR railmotor from the front.
And now we come to the present generation of emu's and dmu's, fairly uniform in appearance and nowhere near as picturesque as the early ones. These include the 1970's Intercity 125 diesel sets and 225 Electric sets that took over from them in the 1980's, as well as the experimental train with its tilt mechanism. .